Five time management tips you need to know to advance your career

Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK
06 September 2016
Businessman sitting in his office smiling

If your average day feels overwhelmingly busy and you just can’t fit in everything you need to do, it’s a good idea to take stock. Rather than having too many things to squeeze in, it might actually be the way you’re doing them that’s the problem. Time management is key to this; here are five ways to take back control.

1. Break tasks down into mini goals

If you look at your to-do list for the week and already feel defeated, don’t despair. Try to break down big tasks or problems into smaller parts that you can tackle one by one. If you create mini goals, you have a far better chance of getting through to reaching your overarching one.

Make a plan; set some targets throughout your week and what you need to do to achieve each one. Try to pre-empt any problems so that you’re prepared if things go off track. Already have ideas for solutions and have organised any support that you may need.

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2. Create a timetable of tasks

It can be helpful to timetable your day so you improve your focus on individual tasks rather than trying to do them all at once. And you’ll have a far better chance of knowing what you can take on and when you can realistically meet deadlines.

Be honest about how you spend your time. If you can’t resist trawling through social media or checking the latest football results, factor this in. Allocate yourself half an hour each day to enjoy this rather than dipping back in and out which overall, will be far more time consuming.

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3. Have breaks to refocus

It’s really important to take regular breaks to regroup. Although you might set out with intentions to crack on with a task and not rest until it’s done, we’re simply not built that way. And in light of the amount of distractions we now face, we’re getting worse. Research by Microsoft found that our average attention span is now just eight seconds – down from 12 seconds before the smartphone became our companion in life. That’s less than a goldfish!

If you’re working at a computer, it can help to step away regularly so you can return with more focus. Research by a social networking company found that the most productive people work for 52 minutes at a time then have a break for 17 minutes. It might help you to track your time to see what works best for you. And have a ‘real break’ by stepping away – ideally do some exercise to boost your mood as it can help with stress too.

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4. Step back and re-evaluate

If you’re really procrastinating over a particular task, it’s a good idea to ask yourself why. Do you need support to get it done? If so, now’s the time to ask rather than struggling on alone. Or perhaps you actually don’t believe in the task so are delaying doing it. Perhaps it’s time to see if it’s actually necessary or if there’s a better solution you can really engage in? Pause to ask yourself these types of questions as it’s likely to yield positive actions.

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5. Acknowledge your achievements

Give yourself a break. Rather than focus on what you haven’t necessarily achieved that week for one reason or another, it’s also important to recognise what you have. Chances are you have checked a lot of things off and are well on your way to achieving your end goal.

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Pablo Vandenabeele
Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK

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